Yesterday Russia joined the US, Canada, Mexico, Korea, and Japan in saying they will back Kim. They have only 1.7 per cent of the votes at the Bank, but they do have one of the 25 board seats. And they’re the first BRICS country to come out for him. Perhaps tellingly, their statement didn’t explain why they preferred Kim to his more experienced challenger, Okonjo-Iweala. I expect this is the route those backing Kim for (misguided) geopolitical considerations will go. Praise Kim, don’t mention the alternative, or how they decided his merits were better than Okonjo-Iweala’s. We shall see soon enough.
While Bank-watchers were expecting the final decision to be made next week, we should have paid more attention to more reputable sources. I’m talking of course of Dartmouth College, the US Ivy League school no one outside of the US had ever heard of until its President was plucked from nowhere to run for the World Bank Presidency. Ok, Ok, I’m being unfair. Probably not that many in the US had heard of it either.
My former colleagues at the Bretton Woods Project have just published their bi-monthly Bretton Woods Update with a cover article summarising some of the key issues that whoever wins the Presidency will have to tackle. Worth reading in full, but here are some snippets, the first on the rise of emerging markets:
One of the most pressing issues is how to work effectively with large emerging market countries. Continue reading
The great and the good are weighing into the World Bank President debate – in addition to the senior Bank staffers coming out in support of Okonjo-Iweala, over one hundred well respected economists have come out for Ocampo. Here’s what they had to say:
We the undersigned economists, endorse the candidacy of Jose Antonio Ocampo for President of the World Bank. Throughout his career Dr. Ocampo has managed and reformed national ministries of finance, agriculture and planning, and regional and global UN Agencies pertaining to economic development and social affairs. Furthermore, he is one of the most noted development economists of our time. It is our view that based his relative merits, Dr. Ocampo is the most suitable candidate for World Bank president.
Has anyone heard a peep out of Jim Yong Kim? He wants to be President of the world’s most influential development institution, yet – as far as I can tell – he hasn’t given a single interview to any press outlet anywhere.
“He is a very competent doctor, but if we speak strictly about development experience, the Nigerian minister and I amply surpass him.”
Now there’s a choice of candidates, for the first time it’s possible to say we may have the basis for a merit-based process for the selection of the World Bank President. Whether that’s what we get is, however, far less likely. If the Board is serious about making the process truly transparent and merit-based, here are the bare minimum things that should happen:
- Public interviews. It will simply not be credible if the Board selects a candidate behind closed doors with no one else able to see how the candidates stood up to questioning.
- Manifestos for candidates. Every candidate should be required to set out what he or she think the main challenges facing the Bank are and how they would deal with them as President.
- Public debates. Candidates should submit themselves for questioning to a variety of forums, including public debates.
- Transparent voting. All countries should vote individually, not through their constituencies, and should announce who they are voting for and why.
Of course, none of this would prevent the backroom deals that the US will use to ensure its candidate gets in, but at least everyone would be able to judge who the best candidate really is, and learn a lot more about what they stand for. None of these are difficult to organise, and all of them take place routinely at national level for senior public servants. Why not for the World Bank?